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Posted at 11:50 AM ET, 02/ 2/2011

Long toss: How high are your expectations?

By Washington Post editors

Spring training is less than two weeks away, and hopes are understandably sunny. While commenting on the Nationals' off-season signings, Handsome_John_Pruitt expressed so much optimism that he even mentioned the P-word.

I think Mike Rizzo has done a good job in balancing making the team more competitive while building the farm system. The true gauge of this year will be whether the young players have the break-out seasons this team needs: Desmond, Espinosa, JZimm, Storen, Ramos. If those guys become the players the brass think they can be, then getting to .500 should be doable, and in turn make the team all the more attractive to FAs, especially with the return of Strasburg and the arrival of Harper. The goal this year SHOULD be playoff contention and the minimum should be 8/10 game improvement.

Do you agree?

By Washington Post editors  | February 2, 2011; 11:50 AM ET
 
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Comments

No doubt improvement is expected, but I think we can leave the P word for another year. It's just to big a leap with a lean pitching staff in hand, though improved if only through health alone.

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 2, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I do not agree. At all. Get ready for lots of losses by scores of 4 to 1 and 5 to 2. The starting pitching staff has not gotten meaningfully better, and the talented bullpen will be overworked (again) as a result.

More importantly, while I grant the improvement on defense and the increase in speed, you need to get on base to score. The offense has gotten worse with the departure of Dunn and Willingham. Werth is not the cleanup hitter they need him to be, and without protection in the lineup Zimmerman is going to struggle. Look for him to end up stranded a LOT this season.

All told, this offense could set records for scoring futility.

Posted by: wahoo2x | February 2, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

The goal should always be playoffs and winning the World Series but believing it is another thing.

You have to walk before you can run and realistic goals in the short term now should be 75 to 81 wins in 2011.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qwq7BYOnDrM

Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | February 2, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I agree with most of it -- the club is much improved and if the youth shows up and plays well, they should win another 8-10 over last year. (A lot rids on Desmond being able to field and hit like they think he can.) But, the P word is a laugher with the rotation peices they currently have.

If Rizzo takes on a Fausto Carmona or a salary dump guy like Derek Lowe (or some other 200 innings 15 game winner type on a bad contract), someone who can take the ball on opening day, then the club has a Wild Card shot in 2011. The Nats have the resources to make a move like that; I would love to see it.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 2, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

The full appreciation of team defense and is often lost by writers in this blog. The replacing of Dunn, Willingham, and Kennedy/Guzman with excellent if not outstanding defensive players -LaRoche/Espinosa/Werth (the latter moving Bernadina/Morse to Left) - will save in the Runs Scored Against column in a huge way. This is even more important if you consider that our SPs are certainly not strikeout kings and rely and good fielding. The hitting overall should be better (I expect huge things from Espinosa - he is going to be a stud and you can get him late in your Rotisserie draft!), plus, the basepaths wont be clogged (Dunn/Willingham vs Espinosa/Werth - no comparison). Ramos is sure to be much more productive than Rodriguez and will be playing 5x/week by June. Also, the SPs are all finally healthy. While its difficult to completely assess how this will all translate in terms of wins, I dont think a run at the wild-card is out of the question. Certainly 80-85 wins is more than doable.

Posted by: hersheyman | February 2, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

The full appreciation of team defense is often lost by writers in this blog. The replacing of Dunn, Willingham, and Kennedy/Guzman with excellent if not outstanding defensive players -LaRoche/Espinosa/Werth (the latter moving Bernadina/Morse to Left) - will save in the Runs Scored Against column in a huge way. This is even more important if you consider that our SPs are certainly not strikeout kings and rely and good fielding. The hitting overall should be better (I expect huge things from Espinosa - he is going to be a stud and you can get him late in your Rotisserie draft!), plus, the basepaths wont be clogged (Dunn/Willingham vs Espinosa/Werth - no comparison). Ramos is sure to be much more productive than Rodriguez and will be playing 5x/week by June. Also, the SPs are all finally healthy. While its difficult to completely assess how this will all translate in terms of wins, I dont think a run at the wild-card is out of the question. Certainly 80-85 wins is more than doable.

Posted by: hersheyman | February 2, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

This team as currently constructed couldn't contend in the ACC... or CAA for that matter. And you're talking NL East? Good 1.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 2, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The team is much improved. Defense and Pitching should be better than last year, with htting slight improved. This makes for a more interesting season but not a playoff one. I am sticking with a 79 win prediction subject to review at close of ST.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | February 2, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

That poster must've gotten his hands on some Skywalker OG or OG Bubba Kush because if he or anyone else really thinks the Natinals will be in the playoffs anytime soon than I definitely want what he/she is smoking (unless its like Crack or Crank, which would totally explain the delusional state one would be in to think the Natinals are a playoff team).

I mean really, does someone need to pull up the youtube of Jim Mora and playoffs? I mean, the Natinals have 1 pretty good player, 1 player who is definitely not worth his new contract, and after that a bunch of scrubs and an injured pitcher.

The Orioles will be in the playoffs long before the Natinals will. Book it. That's a fact!!!

Hahahahaha, like the Natinals ownership will do what it takes to get to the playoffs? Hahahaha, yeah maybe in 2050.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 2, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

My expectations are not all that high, yet once again the Post fails to deliver. I come to this site expecting to see content generated by a professional journalist, and what I get is repurposed reader submissions masquerading as content. What's next, Post? Byline Poopy McPoop? Geez. No wonder your circulation is declining.

Posted by: FeelWood | February 2, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Equally interesting to see will be if the team plays around .500 and if Rizzo tries to duplicate the Capps trade and build for the more reasonable expectation of success 1 or 2 years down the road. Patience (and trust in the professionals running the team) is not a virtue typically shown by fans or owners. But not being in playoff contention doesn't mean Nats fans shouldn't be going to to the ballpark and seeing major league caliber baseball from the home team. Winter moves make that more likely.

Posted by: McKinley2 | February 2, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Have to agree with FeelWood as to repurposed comments, which we already have the ability to comment on within the threads in which they originated. Wake me up when there's a new Kilgore posting...zzzz....

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 2, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Factoring in for the vagaries of the season - i.e., injuries, outlier performance both +/-, an improvement to 75 wins would be reasonable and nice. 78-79 would be great. Conversely, if we get off to another crappy start ala 2009, 68-70, or basically treading water, would not surprise me.

No question 1-25 this is a better team than the 2010 edition, so some improvement should be expected.

Posted by: terrapin31590us | February 2, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I would be happy with 75 wins.
StanK, Jimbo and the Lerners screwed this up so badly over the last 5 years, it will take Rizzo a few years to right the ship, which I believe he already has, to some extent.

I would also be happy with one more move to bring in another starter that can eat some innings. Perhaps a flyer on Bonderman, Millwood or Maine.

Posted by: Section505203 | February 2, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I think that the team has hte makings of a .500 team if they have a few things go right. I think that the biggest problems, beyond any dominant starting pitching, is the need for a true lead off hitter. Nyjer is not the answer. I hope that the improvements to the defense, the marginal improvement in the pitching staff with good health and the maturing of several very young players should lead to a .500 team.

That would be a great jumping off point for 2012 when Strasburg returns, Harper gets a June call up and perhaps another starting pitcher is added to the rotation.

Posted by: NatsWin | February 2, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Definitely awake now (and that was easy :-)). Although, I did wonder at first whether it was April Fool's Day rather than Groundhog Day. Will be interested to learn what we got back if it's true.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 2, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Ignore Poopy, he is still seething and probably teething because (as he himself unintentionally ventured) the Orioles have never seen seen a pitcher even half as good as Walter Johnson. Now enter Stephen Strasburg. Throw Harper into that mix along with a few more carefully chosen high round picks?

The Nats stock is on the rise. In order for them to reach the magically goal of .500 and then look around and consider the "P" word one (one folded into two) must happen given the improvements already made:

1. Starting pitching. Yunesky Maya, Tom Gorzelanny, and Jordan Zimmermann must prove once and for all they are top flight starting pitchers that can fit in most any team's top 3. Gorzelanny proved he was, but he was also "Dusty Baker'ed" by Pirates manager Jim Tracy in 2007. His very first year he pitched over 200 innings and suffered a sore arm the following year and a half. Before that he had only previously pitched 66 total in the majors. Last year his velocity was back and his pitching had improved. He acquired the ability and command of at least three pitches.

Yunesky Maya is still an unknown despite his less than tepid September. His velocity was down because he had been away from baseball for almost two years before the Nats signed him. Hopefully, his velocity and his five pitch repertoire will be ready to rock and roll.

Jordan Zimmermann's first complete year back from the TJ surgery. He had just finished his first foray into the majors when TJ was diagnosed. The jury is still out on him.

If these three pitchers go out and prove they can pitch at the level their talents appear to indicate. And if one of Detwiler, Lannan (best bet), Livo, Marquis, Mock follow with a decent year with at least one going 200 ip. One of the power pitchers in Syracuse could come up and show something as well?

Then, yep it really is possible. So, far that sort of luck has not been there for our guys .... but I guess you never know?

Of course the other scenarios are just as reasonable and possible.

Either way the Nats are improving ... and the June draft will see more improvement ... and as NFA Brian said, they also need to get better focus on International players and signings.

Posted by: periculum | February 2, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Nothing wrong with fans writing hopeful posts and being optimistic. There's probably at least 2% chance that everything falls their way and the Nats make a run.

This time of year every GM expects his team to make a run at the playoffs. What? You want Rizzo to say "Well, this year, we're shooting for 72-75 wins and I've already booked my holiday for October?" He'd lose his job.

My advice is to drink the Kool-aid but stay away from the crack.

Posted by: nattydread1 | February 2, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps a flyer on Bonderman, Millwood or Maine.

Posted by: Section505203 | February 2, 2011 1:56 PM |
------------

Hahahahahahahahahaha. Talk about setting the bar high. Hahahahahahahaha.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 2, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Almost forgot #2?

#2. Riggleman has to stop managing like he's Jay Leno. Too many double switches. Playing veterans who shouldn't be in the lineup because they are in deep slumps. Guzman in right field. Morse double switched out after hitting 2 homers still early in the game. These sorts of brain damaged moves have to cease.

Posted by: periculum | February 2, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

"Perhaps a flyer on Bonderman, Millwood or Maine."

Uh Poopy, this year the veteran depth for the Nats should be waaaay better than it was a year ago and vastly improved over 2-3 years ago. These guys might not even make Syracuse's rotation, particularly given that former Chief's ace JD Martin apparently would not, nor apparently would young Shairon Martis?

So, year handsome_john_pruitt's scenario is certainly possible. But it does greatly rely on how the starting pitching does and a good part of that is how the starting pitching and managing is done by Riggleman. There are too many times when one wonders if the latter might be worst than the former.

Posted by: periculum | February 2, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

btw, my most recent comment related to AK's new post, not to anything that was stated here.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 2, 2011 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Justin Maxwell is now a Yankee.

He may see the field up there too as they have very little in terms of guys who can go catch the ball off the bench. Good luck Max!!

Posted by: dfh21 | February 2, 2011 3:01 PM | Report abuse

He's high! The team as it stands now is worse off than it was on the last day of the season.

Posted by: 6thandD | February 2, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I think the expectations of 8-10 wins is fitting for this ball club. In comparison to last year, we won't strike out any more batters, but we will field better with Laroche/Werth/ and the hopes that Desmond minimizes errors in his second year. Let us not forget that though I don't think LaRoche is as good as Willingham, the Hammer only played half a season last year. I'll bet right now that LaRoche produces more runs than the combination of Willingham and whoever took over for him when he was hurt. Run production from the middle SS/2B/CF will be crucial this year. Those guys exceed expectations...we're going places (likely only figuratively), otherwise another 100 loss season could happen.

Posted by: Bog_Reader | February 2, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

77-85 is doable. We should be better in 2012.

I am actually hoping for Flores to make a comeback this year. Nothing against Ramos, though.

Posted by: poncedeleroy | February 2, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I am also going to be happy with 75 wins but think we might be able to go higher. Everyone talks about the short leash that Morgan will be on and I agree with that but I don't see much speculation on how long "double switch" will have to show Rizzo he can improve and manage this group. I think we are definitely a better team then we were at the end of last year. Improved defensively at 3 positions and I expect Desmond's errors to be reduced by 15 which is huge. Also agree we will run the bases better and hit in the clutch which did not happen with Dunn. Two keys which have been hashed and re-hashed are Morgan improving in the field & at the plate and basepaths (doubtful) and our starting pitchers (hopeful). I also like our future with a much stronger minor league system all the way through and 3 more top picks this year. Things are looking good!

go Nats!!

Posted by: sjm3091 | February 2, 2011 3:38 PM | Report abuse

The real guage of progress will be how they finish the season. It's hard to believe that all of those young players will be playing at a higher level at the start of the season. They should be maturing throughout the season.

Posted by: shanks1 | February 2, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

75 - 87 for the Nats this season.

And a lifetime ban for P00PY_MCP00P.

Posted by: ImWithStupid | February 2, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

75 - 87 for the Nats this season.

And a lifetime ban for P00PY_MCP00P.

Posted by: ImWithStupid | February 2, 2011 5:22 PM
============

I think you'd like living in North Korea or China.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 2, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I have low expectations as long as our leadoff hitter can't field or get on base, our starting pitchers are considered to have done their job if they get past the 4th inning, our manager can't manage properly. Having said this I will still be there to cheer them on.

Posted by: roseglasses | February 3, 2011 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I think a lot depends on how we start of the season. If we play well in the first 50 games, anything is possible. If we play poorly, we could have a horrible season. We are much better defensively and that will help a lot! But we need average to good offensive output from Espinoza and Desmond, smart fielding/baserunning from Morgan, a super year from Werth and the usual from Zim and LaRoche.
Here's hoping for the best...85 wins and a playoff run! And if that happens, lookout 2012!!!

Posted by: JpJp | February 3, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

10 - 12 win improvement is statistically rare and very difficult for any squad - Nats are probably a 5 - 8 game improved team this year if a few things break their way in terms of starters (see above) and Zim has no injury issues (as he has in past seasons). Zim, Werth, Desmond, Laroche, and the catching platoon, all must have above average offensive years - or we might see a 5 - 10 game slide back. Either way, they will be a good team to watch and anticipate Harper in September. I wouldn't look for Stras until 2012.

Posted by: artguydtd | February 3, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Oh yes - left and center are huge gaping holes in terms of offense - and maybe the big question - will Espinosa be as good as hyped? I hope so, I love the kids 'tude & hustle (there may be a real lead-off guy). Can we find a centerfielder before March 31st?

Posted by: artguydtd | February 3, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

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